Standards-Based Reforms

Nationally and in Ohio, we press for the full suite of standards-based reforms across the academic curriculum and throughout the K–12 system, including (but not limited to) careful implementation of the Common Core standards (CCSS) for English language arts (ELA) and mathematics as well as rigorous, aligned state assessments and forceful accountability mechanisms at every level.

Resources:

Our many standards-based blog posts are listed below.


Fordham’s experts on standards-based reforms:


At the end of June, Governor John Kasich vetoed a provision in the state budget bill that would have changed school grading calculations for purposes of evaluating the performance of Ohio’s charter school sponsors. Keep in mind that sponsors—as they should be—are evaluated in part on the basis of how well the charter schools in their portfolios are doing on state report card metrics. At issue here was the weight that the Ohio Department of Education places on student growth—or value added—relative to other measures. The General Assembly, seemingly unhappy with the current, bureaucratically derived framework for sponsor evaluations, had wanted to increase the weight on student growth from 20 to 60 percent. That change would have applied to the “summative” (or “overall”) A-F grades of charter schools when applied to the evaluation of their sponsors.[1]  

Transitioning sponsors towards a growth-centered system was a positive move by the legislature, and it’s disappointing that the governor vetoed the provision. Growth measures consider individual students’ academic performance over time and gauge a school’s impact on student achievement. They differ from status measures, such as proficiency rates, which are “snapshots” of student performance at a point...

When I was growing up, “fake news” was the black-and-white photograph of the infamous bat child. Staring back at me in the supermarket check-out line, it was easy to spot—the line demarcating fiction from reality was as recognizable as the red and yellow tabloid headlines. Nowadays, fake news, defined by Wikipedia as “written and published with the intent to mislead in order to gain financially or politically, often with sensationalist, exaggerated, or patently false headlines that grab attention,” is rampant, flourishing in social media like algae in warm lake water. It’s also harder to pinpoint, having taken on so many esoteric forms beyond the blatantly untrue or “good-old fashioned viral emails” of years past. (You know it’s bad when the ignorance of yesteryear brings on nostalgia.)

Today’s fake news is insidious and creeping—like an invasive weed posing as a hearty, colorful garden plant before wilting and seeding itself in the wind to multiply its damage. The most dangerous form isn’t the outright lie. It’s the distortion of fact, the misrepresentation, the half-truth. News isn’t all that’s “fake” nowadays. Too many public policy proposals also...

Back in February, U.S. News and World Report named Massachusetts the top state in its Best States rankings. Though the Bay State has plenty else going for it, part of its triumph is based on educational success—and on that dimension it’s no secret that Massachusetts students have recently excelled on both the national and international stages.

Perhaps, therefore, we ought not be too surprised that one of Ohio’s latest Common Core repeal attempts would replace those “national” standards with Massachusetts’s pre-2010 academic content standards. The bill’s sponsor has argued that the Bay State’s old standards are in Ohio’s current best interest because, while teaching them, Massachusetts moved from “modestly performing” to best in class. In recent testimony, he called them “excellent” and “proven” and argued that this change is necessary because Ohio’s education ranking has “plummeted” (which, for the record, is a misunderstanding of the data). The implication is that by adopting Massachusetts’ old standards, Ohio will place itself on the road to dominating the education sphere.

But is that true? Were Ohio to adopt the old Massachusetts standards, can we expect Massachusetts-style academic results?

Brief but apt digression: let’s turn...

In politics as of late, there’s been a lot of talk about “going nuclear” in order to accomplish a goal. Ohio now has its own version of scorched earth policy in the form of House Bill 176, a wide-ranging education proposal that, if enacted, would do away with standards and accountability as we know it.

Many of its provisions—namely ditching Ohio’s Learning Standards for Massachusetts’ pre-2010 standards and ditching Ohio’s assessments for Iowa’s pre-2010 assessments—appeared in House Bill 212 back in 2015. That legislation did not move through the General Assembly, but one of its key proponents is at it again. Unfortunately, the new version is an even bigger nightmare than its predecessor.

In a separate piece, I’ll take a deeper look at why using Massachusetts standards and Iowa assessments are two steps in the wrong direction. But for now, let’s take a look at a few of the other changes HB 176 is trying to make and why they’re not in Ohio’s best interest.

Eliminating graduation requirements

Ohio has been abuzz with talk about graduation requirements and how to ensure that students are being held to high—but not ridiculously high—expectations. HB 176...

Note: This blog originally appeared in a slightly different form as a guest commentary in the Cleveland Plain-Dealer.

The State Board of Education recently advised the legislature to make changes to Ohio’s new and more rigorous graduation requirements amid concerns from school people about lower graduation rates. The board’s recommendations, based on a workgroup convened by the board, are out, and they’re deeply disquieting. Put into practice, they’d break the repeated promise of policy makers to raise expectations for Ohio’s 1.7 million students.

Currently, students in the class of 2018 and beyond have three paths to a diploma. They may: 1) achieve a passing cumulative score on seven end-of-course (EOC) exams in the four core subjects of math, English, social studies, and science; 2) achieve a “remediation-free” ACT or SAT score; or 3) complete career and technical education requirements that include earning an industry recognized credential. These are stronger than the state’s old graduation standards, which included the antiquated, middle-school level Ohio Graduation Tests (OGT) and are a key part of the Buckeye State’s robust effort to ensure that students leave high school ready to succeed in college or start a career.

Unfortunately, what the board suggests...

Jack Archer

NOTE: The Thomas B. Fordham Institute occasionally publishes guest commentaries on its blogs. The views expressed by guest authors do not necessarily reflect those of Fordham.

In the last Ohio Gadfly, I described the many similarities between Washington State’s lengthy debate about high school graduation requirements during the years that I worked there and the debate underway in Ohio now. 

As has been Washington’s habit as well on everything from funding to accountability, the Ohio State Board of Education has kicked the issue to a study panel for the time being. At its meeting on December 13, the Board, after first rejecting proposals to delay or reduce the college and work-ready requirements adopted in 2014, directed the State Superintendent to appoint a work group to “review the graduation requirements and consider alternative approaches." The up-to-twenty-five-member work group with broad representation from the education community is to make a recommendation to Superintendent DeMaria by the Board’s April 2017 meeting.

Following is some immodest advice to the work group from someone who may be new to Ohio but is not new to work groups, task forces,...

As a form of credentialing, high school diplomas are supposed to signal whether a young person possesses a certain set of knowledge and skills. When meaningful, the diploma mutually benefits individuals who have obtained one—it helps them stand out from the crowd—and colleges or employers that must select from a pool of many candidates.

In recent years, however, Ohio’s high school diploma has been diluted to the point where its value has been rightly questioned. One of the central problems has been the state’s embarrassingly easy exit exams, the Ohio Graduation Tests (OGT). To rectify this situation, Ohio is phasing in new high school graduation requirements starting with the class of 2018. Under these new requirements, students must pass a series of seven end-of-course assessments in order to graduate high school, or meet alternative requirements such as attaining a remediation-free ACT score or earning an industry credential.

The end-of-course exams have proven tougher for students to pass than the OGT, leading to concerns that too many young people will soon be stranded without a diploma. One local superintendent called the situation an “apocalypse,” predicting that more than 30 percent of high school students in his...

Mike Pence was elected Vice President of the United States on November 9, 2016, alongside President-elect Donald Trump. Here are his views on education.

1. Charter schools: “We want to eliminate low income and location as barriers to receiving a quality education, and public charter schools are an essential element of achieving that objective.” July 2015.

2. Vouchers: “This is a school that has greatly benefited by our educational voucher program, opening doors of opportunity to kids that might not otherwise be able to enjoy the kind of education they have here. We've increased our investment in our traditional public schools, we've raised the foundation under our charter schools, and we've lifted the cap on our voucher program." (Said while visiting St. Charles Borromeo Catholic School.) May 2015.

3. School accountability: “We grade our children every week, and we can grade our schools every year, but those grades should fairly reflect the efforts of our students and teachers as we transition to higher standards and a new exam.” October 2015.

4. Indiana’s abandonment of the Common Core: “I believe when we reach the end of this process there are going to be many other states around the...

As regular readers of this blog know, I’ve been a long-time, energetic, enthusiastic defender of the Common Core standards. That’s because those of us at the Fordham Institute believe these academic standards to be much stronger, in a variety of ways, than what preceded them in most states. They aren’t perfect, but they represent an ambitious, good-faith effort to identify the knowledge and skills kids need in order to be on track—from kindergarten through high school—for college and/or a remunerative career. And when it comes to math, the standards in the early grades are particularly strong, focused as they are on basic arithmetic and “math facts.”

That said, certain elements of the standards have been driving parents crazy.

So it was probably only a matter of time until my karma caught up with me. And so it happened the other day: My third-grader came home from his (Common Core-teaching) public school and asked, with eight-year-old exasperation, “Why do I have to explain my answer in math class? I just know it.”

I decided to turn to the Google gods for an answer—a suggestion of a script I might use to help him understand why it’s important to...

Ohio’s report card release showed a slight narrowing of the “honesty gap”—the difference between the state’s own proficiency rate and proficiency rates as defined by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). The NAEP proficiency standard has been long considered stringent—and one that can be tied to college and career readiness. When states report inflated state proficiency rates relative to NAEP, they may label their students “proficient” but they overstate to the public the number of students who are meeting high academic standards.

The chart below displays Ohio’s three-year trend in proficiency on fourth and eighth grade math and reading exams, compared to the fraction of Buckeye students who met proficiency on the latest round of NAEP. The red arrows show the disparity between NAEP proficiency and the 2015-16 state proficiency rates.

Chart 1: Ohio’s proficiency rates 2013-14 to 2015-16 versus Ohio’s 2015 NAEP proficiency

As you can see, Ohio narrowed its honesty gap by lifting its proficiency standard significantly in 2014-15 with the replacement of the Ohio Achievement Assessments and its implementation of PARCC. (The higher PARCC standards meant lower proficiency...

Pages